A Mini-Adventure. Camping on Snake Pass

It’s mid August and I realised I hadn’t managed to squeeze in any camping this summer – the last few years I’d spent days and weeks in the back garden camping with the boys in the tent (less fun than it sounds after 4 weeks!) but with them being away so much this year that never happened!

So I came up with the idea of cycling out to Snake Pass, spending the night at the top in a tent and then meandering through the Peak District back to Bakewell to meet the family the next day, play in the awesome parks they have and have lunch, including a wonderful Bakewell Pudding (not to be confused with the Bakewell Tart)

You see what I did there? I ticked my exercise and adventure boxes, the kids got to play in the park on the last day of the summer holidays and Wifey got to have lunch without any hassle and with a Pudding (something which she has been thinking about since Spring!)

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It was a perfect storm of family appeasement and a surefire winner – the plan was submitted and approved without any delay!

So, the riding would total about 200km over the 2 days, with lots of hills and hopefully lots of sun, time to prepare!

For that sort of distance I don’t think huge cardio-vascular prowess is needed – just a good smearing of Chamois cream  – a spare dollop in a clean coin-bag is handy for day 2 – and a bit of perseverance.Mini Adventure10

I loaded up the bike as lightly as I could, this is my kit list…..

Bike – Canyon Ultimate CF – Shimano 105 groupset – review coming soon

Pack – Revelate Designs Viscacha Seat Pack

Tent – North Face Mika FL1 single person lightweight tent – review coming soon

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Old Sleeping bag (circa 1992)

Rapha Thermal Bib-shorts – good in hot weather – great in chilly weather (and I would be sleeping in them!)

Santini Summer jersey

Santini H20 Water Resistant Jersey – for nights/morning and just in case – review coming soon

Merino wool Socks

Army Ration Pack Food – 3 ‘meals’

Torq Fitness Pink Grapefruit energy drink

2 x Exposure Flare rear lights

1 x Exposure Joystick front light

Garmin Edge 810 GPS Computer + Piggyback battery

Rapha Merino Knee Warmers

So as you can see, really not very much at all – just enough to get into the seat bag and not feel unwieldy.

Some people say that the journey is more important than the destination – and in some cases that’s fine, but when the destination needs to be reached by sunset to allow you to see the sun go down then it’s kindof a big deal that you get to where you’re going to at the relevant time.

Which is why it’s frustrating that housework gets in the way – but that’s the price you pay for having a jolly!

After a glorious ride through the Peaks, complete with obligatory Blackberry stops – schedule be damned! – I arrived at the base of the 10 mile climb to the summit of Snake Pass.Mini Adventure19

Interesting enough, there are lots of cyclist about of an evening in the Peak District, but they seem to vanish when the only road left is up!

Riding in the Peaks is fun, if you like climbing you will love it! if you don’t like climbing you will learn to love it! There really is very little of that flat stuff, so you find yourself on a constant up and down adventure. I was Vo2 MAX tested last year by Dr Garry Palmer of Sportstest and whilst we both agreed that I am not particularly powerful I do have great powers of recovery – which I attribute entirely to riding up and down the Peaks!

Snake Pass from Derwent Water to the summit is about 10 miles, 9 of which are up – it’s been used as a climb in The Tour of Britain before and it’s a favoured road from Sheffield to Manchester for drivers and cyclists alike. It features reservoirs at the bottoms, alpine ascents through forest and rock faces, sheep, and all manner of personal challenges as you struggle against that pesky force of nature gravity – further compounded by the seat pack you are carrying!

At the top you are greeted with sights that stir the heart – which is pumping furiously – and make you realise that the minutes you have spent climbing are but a short moment yet the sights before you will last a lifetime!Mini Adventure20

But flippin heck – watch out for the midges! If you arrive, as I did, bare minutes before sunset then you will be greeted by an army of midges – and they will like your sweaty skin and your sweet sweet oxygen depleted blood! So this is when the Knee warmers and the long sleeved top get put on in rapid succession – IT’S A MUST!!

A quick ride down the bridleway to a flattish spot to erect the North Face Tent and grab a drink, tear open a packet of Army Pasta Bolognaise (cold) and get some calories down. Cold Army food isn’t the greatest, I’m not going to lie about it, but it’s calorie dense, easily packable and can be transported easily enough – and besides I was saving weight so no stove for me!!

Once the tent is finished, the food is eaten and the pictures are taken its time for a quick bike inspection, make sure you are all stowed away for the morning and then just relax.

No books, no TV, no games consoles. Just time to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

And it IS quiet!Mini Adventure15

It’s a fairly tiring day so sleep comes easily and early as the temperature drops – and this in combination with an old sleeping bag means that my natural alarm clock had me awake again at about 2am.  Normally this is a pain, but up here – it’s most welcome!

A few minutes are spent outside, reveling in the silence and the stars, oh my the stars! So many of them, and despite the fiery glow from a close Manchester and more distant Sheffield the visibility is amazing!

Right thats enough of that chilliness – back to bed!

The morning is greated by the warbling/grumbling/cuckawing of some bird-like creatures out side the tent – I think they were grouse, but I was way too sleepy to investigate, suffice to say that they were not engaging in the sweet elegant chirping of a sparrow!

Breakfast is eaten, cold mushroom omelette (again from a foil packet) and it’s probably the worst omelette I’ve ever eaten and I’ve killed a few in my time!

One of the nicest bits about such a mini-adventure like this is the value for money it provides. At it’s simplest you can strip it down to a person riding a bike up a hill and sleeping in a tent. Not much could be simpler, no fuel cost, no airport parking – just a few bits of kit bought and reused, acquired over the years or purchased for this and future trips!

The solitude, if that’s your thing, brings time away from the hustle and bustle of the city or the town, and just 24 hours brings relief from stress and struggles. For me, this time away allowed me to focus on my upcoming degree, to make mental checklists and to make promises to study and be diligent – yes I could do this at home but it seems more meaningful up here!

The day brings warmth again, but with the start of the ride being downhill for 25 minutes it’s wise to not get to undressed just yet, so the Santini jersey and knee warmers stay on for the time being – although it doesn’t take long for the knee warmers to be by the ankles and the jersey to be fully vented!Mini Adventure14

At the bottom of the valley by Derwent waters I changed into warmer weather attire and prepared for a meandering ride back to Bakewell to meet the family.

No rush, no haste, just a pace that’s as fast as you want to do, and a route which can take in the hills, or not, and give the best views.

Time away from home 24 hours, cost £8.

Obviously you have to purchase the kit before you go, but a collection built up over months and years soon has a very low aggregate cost – as I type this I am wearing a T-shirt I bought in Ecuador as a 16year old (the 90’s)

There’s really no better way to relieve stress than a simple mini adventure – whether you sleep in a tent a bivi-bag, or just on a bench (not to be recommended for too long) it’s such a fun way to GET OUT of the house!

And remember, it’s nice at the bottom of the valley, but the views from the top more than outweigh the struggle of the ascent!

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